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Joe Doorley’s files are a political treasure trove

This is such a great picture. Former Providence mayor Joe Doorley is hanging with children who benefited from The Providence Journal's Summertime Fund, which awarded camp scholarships.Providence College Archives and Special Collections

Joseph A. Doorley Jr., one of the most underappreciated Providence mayors of the last century, died on Sunday at the age of 91.

As Mark Patinkin wrote this week in the Providence Journal, Doorley, who led the city from 1965 until 1975, was responsible for building the civic center in downtown. He was also a strong advocate for desegregating schools and created Progress for Providence, an anti-poverty agency.

Even though Doorley went to college at Notre Dame and law school at Boston College, it’s Providence College that holds onto 300 boxes of Doorley’s papers from his tenure as mayor – and they’re a treasure trove for anyone who loves politics.

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I spent part of my day yesterday reading through various boxes, and mostly searching for fun documents from Doorley’s contentious 1974 race with Buddy Cianci, which disrupted the Democratic machine in Providence.

All credit for preserving these documents goes to Providence College Archives and Special Collections. Here’s what I found.

Providence College Archives and Special Collections

One of Doorley’s major accomplishments was building the Providence Civic Center, known as The Dunk (at least for now).


Providence College Archives and Special Collections

As we know from reading Mike Stanton’sThe Prince of Providence,” the Democratic Party was fractured heading into the 1974 primary, which gave independent Buddy Cianci the opening to win the general election.

In the above letter, Doorley thanks Gene McCaffrey, the mayor of Warwick, for staying loyal. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because his son, Michael McCaffrey, is now the Senate Majority Leader.


Providence College Archives and Special Collections

Was this 1974 or 2014? Who was seen with whom at The Old Canteen?


Providence College Archives and Special Collections

Sound familiar? These are TV and radio commercial scripts for the Doorley campaign. Crime and schools.


Providence College Archives and Special Collections

Talk about a busy schedule. This was Doorley’s political appointment schedule for the final three weeks of the 1974 campaign.

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Providence College Archives and Special Collections

Heading into the Nov. 5, 1974, election, this sign was posted around Providence’s 6th Ward. Veteran political observers will recognize lots of familiar names, including Thomas Goodwin, father of current Senator Maryellen Goodwin, and Anthony Solomon, father of former Providence City Council president Michael Solomon.

This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.


Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.